Perhaps nobody ever kept their thoughts so long and so closely united to the world, as appeared by the frequent messages she sent to Wood and Billings in the place where they were confined, and that tenderness which she expressed for both of them seemed preferable to any concern she showed for her own misfortunes, lamenting in the softest terms of having involved those two poor men in the commission of a fact for which they were now to lose their lives. In which, indeed, they deserved pity, since, as I shall show hereafter, they were persons of unblemished characters, and of virtuous inclinations, until misled by her.
As to the sense she had of her own circumstances, there has been scarce any in her state known to behave with so much indifference. She said often that death was neither grievous nor terrible to her in itself, but was in some degree shocking from the manner in which she was to die. Her fondness for Billings hurried her into indecencies of a very extraordinary nature, such as sitting with her hand in his at chapel, leaning upon his shoulder, and refusing upon being reprimanded (for giving offence to the congregation) to make any amendment in respect of these shocking passages between her and the murderers of her husband, but on the contrary, she persisted in them to the very minute of her death. One of her last expressions was to enquire of the executioner whether he had hanged her dear child, and this, as she was going from the sledge to the stake, so strong and lasting were the passions of this woman.
The Friday night before her execution (being assured she should die on the Monday following) she attempted to make away with herself; to which purpose she had procured a bottle of strong poison, designing to have taken the same. But a woman who was in the place with her, touching it with her lips, found that it burnt them to an extraordinary degree, and spilling a little on her handkerchief, perceived it burnt that also; upon which suspecting her intentions, she broke the phial, whereby her design was frustrated.
On the day of her execution she was at prayers, and received the Sacrament in the chapel, where she still showed her tenderness to Billings. About twelve, the prisoners were severally carried away for execution; Billings with eight others for various crimes were put into three carts, and Catherine Hayes was drawn upon a sledge to the place of execution; where being arrived, Billings with eight others, after having had some time for their private devotions, were turned off.
After which Catherine Hayes being brought to the stake, was chained thereto with an iron chain running round her waist and under her arms and a rope about her neck, which was drawn through a hole in the post; then the faggots, intermixed with light brush wood and straw, being piled all round her, the executioner put fire thereto in several places, which immediately blazing out, as soon as the same reached her, with her arms she pushed down those which were before her. When she appeared in the middle of the flames as low as her waist, the executioner got hold of the end of the cord which was round her neck, and pulled tight, in order to strangle her, but the fire soon reached his hand and burnt it, so that he was obliged to let it go again. More faggots were immediately thrown upon her, and in about three or four hours she was reduced to ashes.
In the meantime, Billings's irons were put upon him as he was hanging on the gallows; after which being cut down, he was carried to the gibbet, about one hundred yards distance, and there hung up in chains.
 The old name for Oxford Street.
The Life of THOMAS BILLINGS, a Murderer.
We have said so much of this malefactor in the foregoing life, yet it was necessary, in order to preserve the connection of that barbarous story, to leave the particular consideration of these two assistants in the murder of Mr. Hayes to particular chapters, and therefore we will begin with Billings. Mrs. Hayes, some time before her execution, confidently averred that he was the son both of Mr. Hayes and of herself, that his father not liking him, he was put out to relations of hers and took the name of Billings from his godfather. But Mr. Hayes's relations confidently denying all this, and he himself saying he knew nothing more than that he called his father a shoemaker in the country, who some time since was dead. He was put apprentice to a tailor with whom he served his time, and then came up to London to work journey-work, which he did in Monmouth Street, lodging at Mr. Hayes's and believed himself nearly related to his wife, who from the influence she always maintained over him, drew him to the commission of that horrid fact.
But the most certain opinion is that he was found in a basket upon the common, near the place where Mrs. Hayes lived before she married Mr. Hayes, that he was at that time of his death about twenty-two or twenty-three years old; whereas it evidently appeared by her own confession, that she had been married to Mr. Hayes but twenty years and eight months. He was put out to nurse by the charge of the parish, to people whose names were Billings, and when he was big enough to go apprentice, was bound to one Mr. Wetherland, a tailor, to whom the parish gave forty shillings with him. It is very probable he might be a natural son of Mrs. Hayes's, born in her rambles (of which we have hinted) before her marriage, and dropped by her in the place where he was found.
As to the character of Billings in the country he was always reputed a sober, honest, industrious young man. During the time he had worked in town, he had done nothing to impeach that reputation which he brought up with him, and might possibly have lived very happily, if he had not fallen into the temptation of this unfortunate woman, who seems to have been born for her own undoing and for the destruction of others. Whatever knowledge he might have of that relation in which he stood to Mrs. Hayes, certain it is that she always preserved such an authority over him that in her presence he would never answer any questions but constantly referred himself to her, or kept an obstinate silence; he affected, also, a strange fondness for her, kissing her cheek when she fainted in the chapel at Newgate, and behaving himself when near her, in such a manner as gave great offence to the spectators. As to the remorse he had for the horrid crime he had committed, those who had occasion to know him while under confinement thought him sincere therein; but the Ordinary, whose place it is to be supreme judge in these matters, told the world in his account of the behaviour and confession of the malefactors, that he was a confused, hard-hearted fellow, and had few external signs of penitence; and a little farther, when possibly he was in a better humour, he says that in all appearance he was very penitent for his sins, and died in the Communion of the Church of England, of which he owned himself an unworthy member.
Life of THOMAS WOOD, a Murderer
This malefactor, Thomas Wood, was born at a place called Ombersley, between Ludlow and Worcester, of parents in very indifferent circumstances, who were therefore able to give him but little education. He was bred up to no settled business, but laboured in all such country employments as require only a robust body for their performance. When the summer's work was over, he used to assist as a tapster at inns and alehouses in the neighbourhood of the village where he was born, and by the industry, care, and regularity which he observed in all things, gained a very great reputation as an honest and faithful servant with all that knew him.
His mother having been left in a needy condition, with several small children, she set up a little alehouse in order to get bread for them. Thomas was very dutiful, and as his diligence enabled him to save a little money, so he was by no means backwards in giving her all the assistance that was in his power. Some few months before his death, he grew desirous of coming to London, which he did accordingly, and worked at whatsoever employment he could get both with fidelity and diligence; but a fleet being then setting out for the Mediterranean, press-warrants were granted for the manning thereof, and the diligence that was used in putting them in execution gave great uneasiness to Wood, who, having no settled business, was afraid of falling into their hands. Whereupon he bethought himself of his countryman, Mr. Hayes, to whom he applied for his advice and assistance. Mr. Hayes kindly invited him to live with them in order to avoid that danger, and he accordingly lay with Mr. Billings, as has been before related. Mr. Hayes was moreover so desirous of doing him service that he applied himself to finding out such persons as wanted labourers in order to get him into business, while Mrs. Hayes, in the meantime, made use of every blandishment to seduce the fellow into following her wicked inclinations. Perceiving that both Billings and he had religious principles then in common with ordinary persons, she artfully made even those persons' dispositions subservient to her brutal and inhuman purpose.
It seems that Mr. Hayes had fallen, within a few years of his death, into the company of some who called themselves Free-thinkers and fancy an excellency in their own understandings because they are able to ridicule those things which the rest of the world think sacred. Though it is no great conquest to obtrude the belief of anything whatsoever on persons of small parts and little education, yet they triumph greatly therein and communicate the same honour of boasting in their pupils. Mr. Hayes now and then let fall some rather rash expression, as to his disbelief of the immortality of the soul, and talked in such a manner on religious topics that Mrs. Hayes persuaded Billings and Wood that he was an Atheist, and as he believed his own soul of no greater value than that of a brute beast, there could be no difference between killing him and them. It must be indeed acknowledged that there was no less oddity in such propositions than in those of her husband; however, it prevailed, it seems, with these unfortunate men; and as she had already persuaded them it was no sin, so when they were intoxicated with liquor she found it less difficult than at any other time, to deprive them also of the humanity, and engage them in perpetrating a fact so opposite not only to religion but to the natural tenderness of the human species. Wood, as he yielded to her persuasions with reluctance, so he was the first who showed any true remorse of conscience for that cruel act of which he had been guilty; his confession of it being free and voluntary, and at the same time full and ingenious. Two days after receiving sentence, his constitution began to give way to the violence of a feverish distemper, which by a natural death prevented his execution, he dying in Newgate, in the twenty-eighth year of his age, much more pitied than either Billings or Mrs. Hayes who suffered at Tyburn. And thus with Wood we put a period to the relation of a tragedy which surprised the world exceedingly at the same time it happened, and will doubtless be read with horror in succeeding generations.
The Life of CAPTAIN JAEN, a Murderer
Though there is not perhaps any sin so opposite to our nature as cruelty towards our fellow creatures, yet we see it so thoroughly established in some tempers, that neither education nor a sense of religion are strong enough to abate it, much less to wear it out. The person of whom we are speaking, John Jaen, was the son of parents in very good circumstances at Bristol, who they bred him up to the knowledge of everything requisite to a person who was to be bred up in trade, and he grew a very tolerable proficient as well in the knowledge of the Latin tongue, as in writing and accounts, for his improvement in all which he was put under the best masters. When he had finished that course of learning which his friends thought would qualify him for what they designed him, he was immediately put apprentice to a cooper in Bristol, where he served his time with both fidelity and industry. When it was expired, he applied himself to trade with the same diligence, and sometimes went to sea, till in the year '24 he became master of a ship called the Burnett, fitted out by some merchants at Bristol, for South Carolina. In his return from this voyage he committed the murder for which he died.
On the 25th April, 1726, an Admiralty Sessions was held at the Old Bailey, before the Hon. Sir Henry Penrice, Judge of the High Court of Admiralty, assisted by the Honourable Mr. Baron Hale, at which Captain Greagh was indicated for feloniously sinking the good ship called the Friendship, of which he was commander; but as there appeared no grounds for such a charge, he was acquitted. Afterwards Captain John Jaen, of Bristol, was set to the bar, and arraigned on an indictment for wilfully and inhumanly murdering one Richard Pye, who had been cabin-boy, in the month of March, in the year 1724. It appeared by the evidence produced against him that he either whipped the boy himself or caused him to be whipped every day during the voyage; that he caused him to be tied to the mainmast with ropes for nine days together, extending his arms and legs to the utmost, whipping him with a cat (as it is called) of five small cords till he was all bloody, then causing his wounds to be several times washed with brine and pickle. Under this terrible usage the poor wretch grew soon after speechless. The Captain, notwithstanding, continued his cruel usage, stamping, beating and abusing him, and even obliging him to eat his own excrements, which forcing its way upwards again, the boy in his agony of pain made signs for a dram, whereupon the captain in derision took a glass, carried it into the cabin, and made water therein, and then brought it to the boy to drink, who rejected the same. The lamentable condition in which he was made no impression on the captain, who continued to treat him with the same severity, by whipping, pickling, kicking, beating, and bruising him while he lingered out his miserable life. On the last day of this he gave him eighteen lashes with the aforesaid cat of five tails, in a little time after which the boy died. The evidence farther deposed that when the boy's body was sewn up in a hammock to be thrown overboard it had in it as many colours as there are in a rainbow, that his flesh in many places was as soft as jelly, and his head swelled as big as two. Upon the whole it very fully appeared that a more bloody premeditated and wilful murder was never committed, and Sir Henry Penrice declared, that in all the time he had had the honour of sitting on the Bench he never heard anything like it, and hoped that no person who should sit there after him should hear of such an offence.
Under sentence of death he behaved with a great deal of piety and resignation though he did not frequent the public chapel for two reasons, the first because the number of strangers who were admitted thither to stare at such unhappy persons as are to die are always numerous and sometimes very indiscreet; the second was, that he had many enemies who took a pleasure in coming to insult him, and as he was sure either of these would totally interrupt his devotions, he thought it excusable to receive the assistance of the minister in his own chamber. As to the general offences of his life, he was very open in his confession, but as to the particular fact for which he suffered, he endeavoured to excuse it by saying he never intended to murder the boy, but only to correct him as he deserved, he being exceedingly wicked and unruly; he charged him with thieving in their voyage out, being yet worse as they came home, and that particularly one evening when he was asleep in the cabin, the lad broke open his lockers, and took out a bottle of rum, of which he drank near a pint, making himself therefor so drunk that his excrements fell involuntarily from him, which stunk so abominably that it awakened him (the Captain), whereupon he called in several of his men, who found the boy in a sad condition, and were obliged to sit down and smoke tobacco in order to overcome the stench he had raised. This produced the terrible punishment of tying him to the mast for several days and the offering him his excrements which he rejected.
Notwithstanding the captain owned all this, yet he could not forbear reflections on those who gave testimony against him at his trial, charging them with perjury and conspiracy to ruin him, though nothing like it appeared from the manner in which they delivered their testimony. As the time of his death approached nearer, the fear thereof, and remorse of conscience, brought the captain into so weak and low a state that he could scarce speak or attend to any discourses of others, but lay in a languishing condition, often fainting, and in fine appearing not unlike a person who had taken something to produce a sudden death, in order to prevent an ignominious one. Yet when such suspicions were mentioned to him, he declared that they were without ground, that he had never suffered such a thought once to enter into his head. His wife, who attended him constantly while in prison, said she loved him too well to become his executioner, and that she was positive since his commitment, he had had nothing unwholesome administered to him.
As he was carried to execution, he was so very much spent, that it was thought he would hardly have lived to have reached it. There he had the assistance of a minister of distinction, who prayed with him till the instant he was thrown off, which was on the 13th day of May, 1726, being then about twenty-nine years of age. As soon as he was cut down, he was put in chains, in order to be hung up.
The Life of WILLIAM BOURN, a Notorious Thief
As the want of education, from a multitude of instances, seems to be the chief cause of many of those misfortunes which befall persons in the ordinary course of life, so there are some born with such a natural inaptitude thereto, that no care, no pains, is able to conquer the stubborn stupidity of their nature, but like a knotty piece of wood, they defy the ingenuity of others to frame anything useful out of such cross-grained materials. This, as he acknowledged himself upon all occasions, was the case of the malefactor we are now speaking of, who was descended of honest and reputable parents, who were willing in his younger years to have furnished him with a tolerable share of learning; but he was utterly incorrigible, and though put to a good school, would never be brought to read or write at all, which was no small dissatisfaction to his parents, with whom in other respects he agreed tolerably well.
When of age to be put out apprentice, he was placed with a hatter in the city of Dublin, to whom he served his time honestly and faithfully; as soon as he was out of his time, he came up to London in order to become acquainted with his business. He had the good luck, though a stranger, to get into good business here, but was so unfortunate as to fall into the acquaintance of two lewd women, who fatally persuaded him that thieving was an easier way of getting money to supply their extravagant expenses than working. He being a raw young lad, unacquainted with the world, was so mad as to follow their advice, and in consequence thereof snatched a show-glass out of the shop of Mr. Lovell, a goldsmith in Bishopsgate Street, in which there was four snuff-boxes, eight silver medals, six pairs of gold buttons, five diamond rings, twenty pairs of ear-rings, sixty-four gold rings, several gold chains, and other rich goods, to the amount of near L300, with all of which he got safe off, though discovered soon afterwards by his folly in endeavouring to dispose of them.
He threw aside all hopes of life as soon as he was apprehended, as having no friends to make intercession likely to procure a pardon. He was, indeed, a poor young creature, rather stupid than wicked and his vices more owing to his folly than to the malignity of his inclinations. He seemed to have a just notion both of the heinousness of that crime which he had committed and of the shame and ignominy he had brought upon himself and his relations. He was particularly affected with the miseries which were likely to fall upon his poor wife for his folly, and when the day of his death came, he seemed very easy and contented under it, declaring, however, at last that he died in the communion of the Church of Rome. This was on the 27th of June, 1726, being then not much above eighteen years old.
The Life of JOHN MURREL, a Horse-Stealer
This malefactor was descended of very honest and reputable parents in the county of York, who took care not only that he should read and write tolerably well, but also that he should be instructed in the principles of religion. They brought him up in their own way of business, which was grazing of cattle (both black cattle and horses), and afterwards selling them at market. As he grew up a man, he settled in the same occupation, farming what is called in Yorkshire a grazing room, for which he paid near a hundred pounds a year rent, and dealt very considerably himself in the same way which had been followed by his parents. He married also a young woman with a tolerable fortune, who bore him several children, five of which were alive at the time of his execution, and lived with their mother upon some little estate she had of her own.
For some years after his marriage he lived with tolerable reputation in the country, but being lavish in his expenses, he quickly consumed both his own little fortune and what he had with his wife, and then failing in his business, a whim took him in the head to come to London, whither also he brought his son. Here he soon fell into bad company, and getting acquaintance with a woman whom he thought was capable of maintaining him, he married her, or at least lived with her as if they had been married, for a considerable space; the news of which reaching his wife in the country, affected her so much that she had very nigh fallen into a fit of sickness. Thereupon her friends demonstrated to her, in vain, how unreasonable a thing it was for her to give herself so much pain about a man who treated her at once with unkindness and injustice; in spite of their remonstrances she came up to London, in hopes that her presence might reclaim him. But herein she was utterly mistaken, for he absolutely denied her to be his wife, and even persuaded his son to deny her also for his mother, which the boy with much fear and confusion did; and the poor woman was forced to go down into the country again, overwhelmed with sorrow at the ingratitude of the one and the undutifulness of the other. However, Murrel still went on in the same way with the woman he had chosen for his companion.
There is all the reason imaginable to suppose that he did not take the most honest ways of supporting himself and his mistress. However, he fell into no trouble nor is there any direct evidence of his having been guilty of any dishonesty within the reach of the Law, until he ran away with a mare from a man in town, as to which he excused himself by saying that she had formerly been his own, and that there having nothing more than a verbal contract between them, he thought fit to carry her off and sell her again. Sometime afterwards, going down to Newcastle Fair (for he still continued to carry on some dealing in horse-flesh) he fell there into the company of some merchants in the same way, who found means to get gains and sell very cheap, by paying nothing at the first hand. Among these, there was a country man of his who went by the name of Brown, with whom Murrel had formerly had an acquaintance. This fellow knowing the company in general to be persons of the same profession, began to talk very freely of his practices in that way (viz., of horse stealing), and amongst other stories related this. He said he once rode away with an officer's horse, who had just bought it with an intent to ride him up to London; he carried the creature into the West, and having made such alterations in his mane and tail as he thought proper, sold him there to a parson for thirteen guineas, which was about seven less than the horse was worth. But knowing the doctor had another church about eight miles from the parish in which he lived, and that there was a little stable at one angle of the churchyard, where the horse was put up during service, he resolved to make bold with it again. Accordingly, when the people were all at church, having provided himself with a red coat and a horse-soldier's accoutrements, he picked the stable door, clapped them on the priest's beast, and rode him without the least suspicion as hard as conveniently he could to Worcester. There he laid aside the habit of a cavalier, and transforming himself into the natural appearance of a horse-courser, he sold the horse to a physician, telling him at the time he bought it, that it would be greatly the better for being suffered to run at grass a fortnight or so. No doubt on it, said he; but I had some design of so doing.
Yet they were much sooner executed than at first they were intended to have been, by an accident which happened the very day after the beast came into the hands of the physician; for one evening as Brown was taking a walk in the skirts of the city, who should he perceive but his old Cornish parson and his footman, jogging into town. Guilt struck him immediately with apprehensions at their errand relating to him, so that walking up and down, nor daring to go into the town for fear of being taken up and at last supposing it the only way to rid him of danger, he caught the horse once more in the doctor's close, and having stolen a saddle and bridle out of the inn where he lodged, he rode on him as far as Essex.
There he remained until Northampton Fair, where he sold the horse for the third time, for twenty-seven guineas, to an officer in the same regiment with him from whom it had been first stolen, on whose return from Flanders it was owned and the captain who bought it (though he refused to lose his money) yet gave as good description as he could of the person who sold it. Upon this the other officer put out an advertisement, describing both the man and the horse, and offering a reward of five guineas for whoever should apprehend him. This advertisement roused both the parson and the doctor, and the former took so much pains to discover him that he was at length apprehended in Cornwall, where at the assizes he was tried and convicted for the fact. But the captain who was the original possessor of the horse was so much pleased with his ingenuity that he procured a reprieve for him, and carried him abroad with him where he continued until the peace of Utrecht, when he returned home and fell to his old way of living, by which he had submitted himself unto the time in which he fell into company with Murrel, and had then bought five or six horses which had been stolen from the South, to be disposed of at the fair.
Murrel liked the precedent, and put it in practice immediately by stealing a brown mare which belonged to Jonathan Wood, for which he was shortly after apprehended and committed to Newgate. At the next sessions at the Old Bailey he was tried and convicted on very clear evidence, and during the space in which he lay under condemnation, testified a true sorrow for his sins, though not so just a sense of that for which he died as he ought to have had, and which might have been reasonably expected. For as horse-stealing did not appear any very great sin to him at the time of his committing it, so now, when he was to die for it, such an obstinate partiality towards ourselves is there naturally grafted in human nature that he could not forbear complaining of the severity of the Law, and find fault with its rigour which might have been avoided. What seemed most of all to afflict him under his misfortune was that be saw his son and nearest relations forsake him, and as much as they could shun having anything to do with his affairs. Of this he complained heavily to the minister of the place, during his confinement in Newgate, who represented to him how justly this had befallen him for first slighting his family, and leaving them without the least tenderness of respect, either to the ties of a husband, or the duty of a parent; so he began to read his sin in his punishment, and to frame himself to a due submission to what he had so much merited by his follies and his crimes.
When he was first brought up to receive sentence, he counterfeited being dead so exactly that he was brought back again to Newgate, but this cheat served only to gain a little time; for at the next sessions he was condemned and ordered for execution, which he suffered on the 27th of June, 1726, being then between forty and fifty years of age.
The Life of WILLIAM HOLLIS, a Thief and an Housebreaker
This unhappy lad was born in Portugal, while the English army served there in the late war. His father was drum-major of a regiment, but had not wherewith to give his child anything but food, for intending to bring him up a soldier, he perhaps thought learning an unnecessary thing to one of that profession. During the first years of his life the poor boy was a constant campaigner, being transported wherever the regiment removed, with the same care and conveniency as the kettle [drum] and knapsack, the only thing besides himself which make up the drum-major's equipage. When he grew big, he got, it seems, on board a man-of-war in the squadron that sailed up the Mediterranean. This was a proper university for one who had been bred in such a school; so that there is no wonder he became so great a proficient in all sorts of wickedness, gaming, drinking, and whoring, which appear not to such poor creatures as sins, but as the pleasures of life, about which they ought to spend their whole care; and, indeed, how should it be otherwise, where they know nothing that better deserves it.
When he came home to England his father dying, he was totally destitute, except what care his mother-in-law was pleased to take of him, which was, indeed, a great deal, if he would have been in any degree obedient to her instructions. But instead of that he looked upon all restraints on his liberty as the greatest evil that could befall him. Wherefore, leaving his mother's house, he abandoned himself to procuring money at any rate to support those lewd pleasures to which he had addicted himself.
It happened that he lodged near one John Mattison, a working silversmith, into whose house he got, and stole from thence no less than one hundred and forty silver buckles, the goods of one Samuel Ashmelly. For this offence he was apprehended, and committed to Newgate; at the next sessions he was tried, and on the evidence of the prosecutor, which was very full and direct, he was convicted, and having no friends, he laid aside all hopes of life, and endeavoured as far as poor capacity would give him leave to improve himself in the knowledge of the Christian Faith, and in preparing for that death to which his follies and his crimes had brought him. The Ordinary, in the account he gives of his death, says that he was extremely stupid, a thing no ways improbable considering the wretched manner in which he had spent the years of his childhood and his youth. However, at last either his insensibility or having satisfied himself with the little evil there is in death compared with living in misery and want, furnished him with so much calmness that he suffered with greater appearance of courage than could have been expected from him. Just before he died he stood up in the cart, and turning himself to the spectators, said, Good people, I am very young, but have been very wicked. It is true I have had no education, but I might have laboured hard and lived well for all that; but gaming and ill-company were my ruin. The Law hath justly brought me where I am, and I hope such young men as see my untimely fate will avoid the paths which lead unto it. Good people, pray for our departing souls, as we do, that God may give you all more grace than to follow us thither. He suffered with the malefactors before-mentioned, being at the time of his execution between seventeen and eighteen years old.
The Life of THOMAS SMITH, a Highwayman
There is a certain commendable tenderness in human nature towards all who are under misfortunes, and this tenderness is in proportion to the magnitude of those evils which we suppose the pitied person to labour under. If we extend our compassion to relieving their necessities, and feeling a regret for those miseries which they undergo, we undoubtedly discharge the duties of humanity according to the scheme both of natural religion and the laws laid down in the Gospel. Perhaps no object ever merited it from juster motives than this poor man, who is the subject of the following pages. His parents were people in tolerable circumstances in Southwark; his father was snatched from him by death, while he was yet a child, but his mother, as far as she was able, was very careful that he should not pass his younger days without instruction, and an uncle he then had, being pleased with the docile temper of the youth, was at some expense also about his education. By this means he came to read and write tolerably well, and gained some little knowledge of the Latin tongue; and having a peculiar sweetness in his behaviour, it won very much upon his relations, and encouraged them to treat him with great indulgence.
But unfortunately for him, by the time he grew big enough to go out apprentice, or to enter upon any other method of living, his friends suddenly dropped off, and, by their death becoming in great want of money, he was forced to resign all the golden hopes he had formed and for the sake of present subsistance submit to becoming footman to a gentleman, who was, however, a very good and kind master to him, till in about a year's time he died also, and poor Smith was again left at his wits' end. However, out of this trouble he was relieved by an Irish gentleman, who took him into his service, and carried him over with him to Dublin. There he met with abundance of temptations to fall into that loose and lascivious course of life which prevails more in that city, perhaps, than in any other in Europe. But he had so much grace at that time as to resist it, and after a stay there of twenty months, returned into England again, where he came into the service of a third master, no less indulgent to him than the two former had been. In this last service an odd accident befell him, in which, though I neither believe myself, nor incline to impose on my readers that there was anything supernatural in the case of it, yet I fancy the oddness of the thing may, under the story I am going to tell, prove not disagreeable.
In a journey which Thomas had made into Herefordshire, with his first master, he had contracted there an acquaintance with a young woman, daughter to a farmer, in tolerable circumstances. This girl without saying anything to the man, fell it seems desperately in love with him, and about three months after he left the country, died. One night after his coming to live with this last master, he fancied he saw her in a dream, that she stood for some time by his bedside, and at last said, Thomas, a month or two hence you will be in danger of a fever, and when that is over of a greater misfortune. Have a care, you have hitherto always behaved as an honest man; do not let either poverty or misfortunes tempt you to become otherwise; and having so said, she withdrew. In the morning the fellow was prodigiously confounded, yet made no discovery of what had happened to any but the person who lay with him, though the thing made a very strong impression on his spirits, and might perhaps contribute not a little to his falling ill about the time predicted by the phantom he had seen.
This fever soon brought him very low, and obliged him to make away with most of his things in order to support himself. Upon recovery he found himself in lamentable circumstances, being without friends, without money, and out of business. Unfortunately for him, coming along the Haymarket one evening, he happened to follow a gentleman somewhat in liquor, who knowing him, desired that he would carry him home to his house in St. Martin's Lane, to which Thomas readily agreed. But as they were going along thither, a crowd gathered about the gentleman, who became as quarrelsome as they, and took it into his head to box one of the mob, in order to do which more conveniently, he gave Smith his hat and cane, and his wig. Smith held them for some time, the mob forcing them along like a torrent, till the gentleman, whose name was Brown, made up a court near Northumberland House, and Smith thereupon marched off with the things, the necessity he was under so far blinding him that he made no scruple of attempting to sell them the next day; by which means Mr. Brown hearing of them, he caused Smith to be apprehended as a street-robber, and to be committed to Newgate, though he had the good luck, notwithstanding, to get all his things again. It seems he visited the poor man in prison, and if he did not prevaricate at his death, made him some promises of softening at least, if not of dropping the prosecution, which, as Smith asserted, prevented his making such a preparation for his defence as otherwise he might have done; which proved of very fatal consequence to him, since on the evidence of the prosecutor he was convicted of the robbery and condemned.
Never poor creature suffered more or severer hardships in the road of death than this poor man did, for by the time sentence was passed, all that he had was gone, and he had scarce a blanket to cover him from downright nakedness, during the space he lay in the hold under sentence. As he was better principled in religion than any of the other malefactors, he had retained his reading so well as to assist them in their devotions, and to supply in some measure the want of somebody constantly to attend them in their preparation for another world. So he picked up thereby such little assistances from amongst them as prevented his being starved before the time appointed for their execution came.
As this man did not want good sense, and was far from having lost what learning he had acquired in his youth, so the terrors of an ignominious death were quickly over with him, and instead of being affrighted with his approaching fate, he considered it only as a relief from miseries the most piercing that a man could feel, under which he had laboured so long that life was become a burden, and the prospect of death the only comfort that was left. He died with the greatest appearance of resolution and tranquillity on the 3rd August, 1726, being then about twenty-three years of age.
The Life of EDWARD REYNOLDS, a Thief, etc.
Notwithstanding the present age is so much celebrated for its excellency in knowledge and politeness, yet I am persuaded both these qualities, if they are really greater, are yet more restrained than they have been any time herefore whatsoever. The common people are totally ignorant, almost even of the first principles of religion. They give themselves up to debauchery without restraint, and what is yet more extraordinary, they fancy their vices are great qualifications, and look on all sorts of wickedness as merit.
This poor wretch who is the subject of our present page was put to school by his parents, who were in circumstances mean enough; but from a natural aversion to all goodness he absolutely declined making any proficiency therein. Whether he was educated to any business I cannot take upon me to say, but he worked at mop-making and carried them about to the country fairs for sale, by which he got a competency at least, and therefore had not by any means that ordinary excuse to plead that necessity had forced him upon thieving. On the contrary, he was drawn to the greatest part of those evils which he committed, and which consequently brought of those which he suffered, by frequenting the ring at Moorfields—a place which since it occurs so often in these memoirs, put me under a kind of necessity to describe it, and the customs of those who frequent it.
It lies between Upper and Middle Moorfields, and as people of rank, when they turn vicious, frequent some places where, under pretence of seeing one diversion in which perhaps there is no moral evil, they either make assignations for lewdness, or parties for gaming or drinking, and so by degrees ruin their estates, and leave the character of debauchees behind them, so those of meaner rank come thither to partake of the diversions of cudgel-playing, wrestlings, quoits, and other robust exercises which are now softened by a game of toss-up, hustle-cap, or nine-holes, which quickly brings on want; and the desire continuing, naturally inclines them to look for some means to recruit. And so, when the evening is spent in gaming, the night induces them to thieve under its cover, that they may have wherewith to supply the expenses of the ensuing day. Hence it comes to pass that this place and these practices hath ruined more young people, such as apprentices, journeymen, errand-boys, etc., than any other seminary of vice in town. But it is time that we should now return to the affairs of him who hath occasioned this digression.
In the neighbourhood of this place Reynolds found out a little alehouse to which he every night resorted. There were abundance of wicked persons who used to meet there, in order to go upon their several villainous ways of getting money; Reynolds (whose head was always full of discovering a method by which he might live more at ease than he did by working) listened very attentively to what passed amongst them. One Barnham, who had formerly been a waterman, was highly distinguished at these meetings for his consummate knowledge in every branch of the art and mystery of cheating. He had followed such practices for near twenty years, and commonly when they came there at night they formed a ring about the place where he sat and listened with the greatest delight to those relations of evil deeds, which his memory recorded.
It happened one evening, when these worthy persons were assembled together, that their orator took it in his head to harangue them on the several alterations which the science of stealing had gone through from the time of his becoming acquainted with its professors. In former days, said he, knights of the road were a kind of military order into which none but decayed gentlemen presumed to intrude themselves. If a younger brother ran out of his allowance, or if a young heir spent his estate before he had bought a tolerable understanding, if an under-courtier lived above his income, or a subaltern officer laid out twice his pay in rich suits and fine laces, this was the way they took to recruit; and if they had but money enough left to procure a good horse and a case of pistols, there was no fear of their keeping up their figure a year or two, till their faces were known. And then, upon a discovery, they generally had friends good enough to prevent their swinging, and who, ten to one, provided handsomely for them afterwards, for fear of their meeting with a second mischance, and thereby bringing a stain upon their family. But nowadays a petty alehouse-keeper, if he gives too much credit, a cheesemonger whose credit grows rotten, or a mechanic that is weary of living by his fingers-ends, makes no more ado, when he finds his circumstances uneasy, but whips into a saddle and thinks to get all things retrieved by the magic of those two formidable words, Stand and Deliver. Hence the profession is grown scandalous, since all the world knows that the same methods now makes an highwayman, that some years ago would have got a commission.
But hark ye, says one of the company, in the days of those gentlemen highwaymen, was there no way left for a poor man to get his living out of the road of honesty? Puh! Ay, replied Barnham, a hundred men were more ingenious then than they are now, and the fellows were so dexterous that it was dangerous for a man to laugh who had a good set of teeth, for fear of having them stole. They made nothing of whipping hats and wigs off at noon-day; whipping swords from folks' sides when it grew dusk; or making a midnight visit, in spite of locks, bolts, bars, and such like other little impediments to old misers, who kept their gold molding in chests till such honest fellows, at the hazard of their lives, came to set at liberty. For my part, continued he, I believe Queen Anne's war swept away the last remains of these brave spirits; for since the Peace of Utrac (as I think they call it) we have had a wondrous growth of blockheads, even in our business. And if it were not for Shephard and Frazier, a hundred years hence, they would not think that in our times there were fellows bold enough to get sixpence out of a legal road, or dare to do anything without a quirk of the law to screen them.
All his auditors were wonderfully pleased with such discourses as these, and when the liquor had a little warmed them, would each in their turn tell a multitude of stories they had heard of the boldness, cunning, and dexterity of the thieves who lived before them. In all cases whatever, evil is much sooner learnt than good, and a night debauch makes a ten times greater impression on the spirits than the most eloquent sermon. Between the liquor and the tales people begin to form new ideas to themselves of things, and instead of looking on robbery as rapine and stealing as a villainous method of defrauding another, they, on the contrary, take the first for a gallant action, and the latter for a dexterous piece of cunning; by either of which they acquire the means of indulging themselves in what best suits their inclinations, without the fatigue of business or the drudgery of hard labour.
Reynolds, though a very stupid fellow, soon became a convert to these notions, and lost no time in putting them in execution, for the next night he took from a person (who it seems knew him and his haunts well enough) a coat and a shilling, which when he came to be indicted for the fact, he pretended they were given him to prevent his charging the prosecutor with an attempt to commit sodomy—an excuse which of late years is grown as common with the men, as it has long been with the women to pretend money was given them for flogging folks, when they have been brought to the bar for picking it out of their pockets; hoping by this reverberation of ignominy to blacken each other so that the jury may believe neither. However, in this case, it must be acknowledged that Reynolds went to death with the assertion that he received the coat and the shilling on the before-mentioned account, and that he did not take it by violence, which was the crime whereof he was convicted.
He had married a poor woman, who lived in very good reputation both before and after; by her he had three children, and though he had long associated himself with other women, and left her to provide for the poor infants, yet he was extremely offended because she did not send him as much money as he wanted under his confinement, and he could not forbear treating her with very ill language when she came to see him under his misfortunes. As he was a fellow of little parts and no education, so his behaviour under condemnation was confused and unequal, as it is reasonable to suppose it should be, since he had nothing to support his hopes or to comfort him against those fears of death which are inseparable from human nature. However, he sometimes showed an inclination to learn somewhat of religion, would listen attentively while Smith was reading, and as well as his gross capacity would give him leave, would pray for mercy and forgiveness. At chapel he behaved himself decently, if not devoutly, and being by his misfortunes removed from the company of those who first seduced him into his vices, he began to have some ideas of the use of life when he was going to leave it; and his thoughts had received certain ideas (though very imperfect ones) of death and a future state, when the punishment appointed by Law sent him to experience them. He died on the 23rd of August, 1726, being then upwards of twenty-six years of age.
The Life of JOHN CLAXTON, alias JOHNSTON, a Thief, etc.
This unhappy malefactor was amongst the number of those who, through want of education, was the more easily drawn into the prosecution of such practices as became fatal to him. His father was a common sailor belonging to the town of Sunderland, who had it not in his power to breed him in a very extraordinary manner; and what little he was able to do was frustrated by the evil inclinations of his son, who instead of applying himself closely while he remained at school, loitered away his time, and made little or no proficiency there. His head, as those of most seamen's children do, ran continually on voyages and seeing foreign countries, with which roving temper the father too readily complied, and while yet a boy, unacquainted with any kind of learning and unsettled in the principles of religion, he was sent forth into the world to pick up either as he could.
The first voyage he made was up the Straits, where he touched at Gibraltar, and went soon after to Leghorn, the port to which they were bound. Being a young sprightly lad the mate carried him on shore with him, and being a man of intrigue, made use of him to go between him and an Irish woman, who was married to an Italian captain of a ship. The lady's husband was in Sicily, and they therefore apprehended themselves to be secure; she proposed to the mate the carrying off of jewels and other things, to the amount of some thousand crowns, and then flying with him from Italy. The project had certainly succeeded if it had not been for their imprudence; for the mate, who passed for her cousin, being continually in the house for three days before the ship went away, a suspicion entered into some of the neighbours (as they often do amongst Italians) that there was something more than ordinary concealed under the frequency of his visits. They therefore dispatched a messenger to Signor Stefano di Calvo, the captain's brother, with the account of their surmises. He came immediately to Leghorn, and going directly to his brother's house, found his sister had packed up all his valuable effects, and having loaded the boy with as much as he could carry, was on the point of setting out with him for the vessel. Stefano dragged her back into an inner apartment, where he locked her in, and afterwards fastened the doors of the outward apartment, through which they passed thither. But Jack, seeing how things went, laid down his burden and fled as hard as he could drive to the port, where he gave notice to the master of their disappointment, and caused the vessel immediately to weigh anchor and stand to sea, as fearing the consequences of the affair, which he knew would make a great noise, and might possibly turn to the detriment of his owners.
Claxton had hitherto done nothing that was criminal within the eye of the Law, though while at sea he was continually employed in some mischievous trick or other. When he came into England the ship happened to go to Yarmouth, and as all places were alike to him, so short a stay there engaged him to marry a young woman who had some little matter of money, with which he proposed to do for himself some little matter at sea, and taking the greatest part of it with him, came up to London in order to see after a good voyage.
But this was the most fatal journey he ever made, for falling unfortunately into the hands of bad women and their companions, they quickly drew him to be as bad as themselves; so that forgetting the poor woman he had married, and regardless of the business which brought him up to town, he gave himself up entirely to the pursuit of such villainies as they taught him, and in a short space became as expert a proficient as any in the gang.
Some of them had consulted together to rob a woodmonger's house of a considerable quantity of plate, but there was one difficulty to be encountered, without overcoming which there was no hopes of success. The woodmonger's maid carried up the keys every night to her master (the outer court having a gate to it), and unless they could call upon some stratagem either to prevent the gate being shut, or to gain the means of unlocking it, their attempt was certainly in vain. In order to bring this to pass, they put Jack, who was a neat little fellow, into a very good habit, and found means to introduce him to the acquaintance of the wench at a neighbouring chandler's shop, where he took lodgings. In a fortnight's time he prevailed upon Mrs. Anne to come out at twelve of the clock to meet him, which she could not do without leaving the great gate ajar, having first carried up the key to her master, though for her own conveniency she had thus left it upon a single lock. While she and her sweetheart were drinking punch and making merry together, the rest of the confederates got into the house and carried away silver plate to the value of L80, leaving everything behind them in so good order that the maid, who was a little tipsy into the bargain, discovered nothing that night. Going to acquaint her lover with the accident as soon as it was found out, to her great surprise she was informed that he was removed, having carried away all the things before his landlord and landlady were up. The girl carefully concealed the passage, knowing how fatal it would be to her if it should reach her master's ears; but for her spark, she heard no more of him until his commitment to Newgate for another fact, for which he was ordered for transportation.
Being on board the vessel with the rest of the convicts, he soon procured the favour of the master to be let to go out upon deck, and being a strong able sailor, he ingratiated himself so far as to meet no worse usage than any other sailor in the ship. On their arrival at the Canaries, where by stress of weather they were obliged to put in, a quarrel happened between the master of their vessel and the captain of a Jamaicaman homeward bound. It ended in a duel with sword and pistol, and the captain of the transport having carried John with him, he behaved so well upon this occasion that he promised him his liberty as soon as they arrived in America, which he honorably performed; and Jack was so indefatigable in his endeavours to get home that he arrived at London six weeks before the captain came back.
He herded again with his old crew, though before he was able to do much mischief amongst them he was apprehended for returning from transportation, and was at the next sessions tried and convicted. By this time the captain who had carried him was arrived, and hearing of John's misfortune, he made such interest as procured the sentence of death to be changed into a second transportation.
Such narrow escapes, one would have imagined, might have taught him how dangerous a thing it was to dally with the laws of the nation in any respect whatsoever; and yet, when he was on shore in New England, where the master took care to provide him with as easy a service as a man could have wished, as soon as the captain's back was turned, he found means to give the planter the slip, and in nine months' time revisited London a second time. Whether he intended to have gone on in the old trade or no is impossible for us to determine, but this we are certain, that he had not been in England many weeks ere a person who made it his business to detect such as returned from transportation clapped him up in his old lodging at Newgate, brought him to his trial, and convicted him the third time. As soon as he had received sentence, he relinquished all hopes of life, and as in all this time he had never made any enquiry after his wife at Yarmouth, so he would not now bring an odium upon her and her family by sending to them, and making his misfortune public in the place where they lived.
The man seemed to be of an easy, tractable disposition, readily yielding to whatever those who conversed with them desired to bring him to, whether it were good or evil. He attended with great seeming piety and devotion to the books which Thomas Smith read to his fellow prisoners, and gained thereby a tolerable notion of the duty of repentance, and that faith which men ought to have in Jesus Christ. Thus by degrees he brought himself to a perfect indifference as to life or death, and at the place of execution showed neither by change of colour, or any other symptom any extraordinary fear of his approaching dissolution; and having conformed very devoutly to the prayers said by the Ordinary, after a short private devotion, he submitted to his fate with the afore-mentioned malefactors Smith and Reynolds, being then about twenty-eight years old or thereabouts.
The Life of MARY STANDFORD, a Pickpocket and Thief
This unfortunate woman was born of very good parents, who sent her to school, and caused her to be bred up in every other respect so as to be capable of performing well in her station of the world, and doing her duty towards God, from a just notion of religion. But it happening, unluckily, that she set her mind on nothing so much as the company of young men and running about with them to fairs and such other country diversions, her friends were put under the necessity of sending her to London, a thing which they saw could not be avoided.
When she came to town, she got in one or two good places, which she soon lost from her forward behaviour; and having been seduced by a footman, she soon became a common street walker, and practised all the vile arts of those women who were a scandal to their sex. When she was young, she was tolerably handsome, and associated herself with one Black Mary, whose true name was Mary Rawlins, a woman of notorious ill-fame, and who, from being kept by a man of substance in the City, by her own ill-management was turned upon the town, and reduced to getting her bread after the infamous manner of the inmates of Drury. These two Marys used to walk together between Temple Bar and Ludgate Hill, where sometimes they met with foolish young fellows out of whom they got considerable sums, though at other times their adventures produced so little that they were obliged to part with almost every rag of clothes they had; nay, they were now and then reduced so low that one was obliged to stay at home while the other went out.
Mary Rawlins, contrary to the rules established amongst the sisterhood, married a man who had been a Life-Guardsman, and so was obliged to remove her lodgings to go with him into a little court near King Street, Westminster. Some of my readers may perhaps imagine that either her love for her husband, or the fear of his authority, might work a reformation, but therein they would be highly mistaken for he proposed no other end to himself than plundering her of those presents she received from gallants, so that whenever evening drew on, he was very assiduous for her to turn out (as they phrase it), that is to go upon the street-walking account picking pockets. She had not followed this trade long before she became so uneasy under it that one night meeting with her old companion Standford, she persuaded her to remove into a new quarter of the town, whither she fled to her from her husband. They there carried on their intrigues together, and lived much more at their ease then they had done before; for being now got towards Wapping, they drew in the sailors when they had any money to part with for their favours, and getting into acquaintance with some navy solicitors, they found means to raise them cash, at the rate of 60 per cent. to the broker, and as much to the whore.
Thus they lived till Standford took it in her head to serve her partner as she had done her before, for finding a man mad enough to marry her, she was fool enough to consent to the marriage. But after living with the man for about a year, she repented her bargain, and left him, as Rawlins had done hers. Some time after this she contracted an acquaintance with another man, at that time servant to a person in the City. By him she had a child, which as it increased her necessary expense, so it plunged her into the greater difficulty of knowing how to supply it. However, fancying her gains would be larger if she plied by herself, she totally left the company of her former associates, and applied herself with an infamous industry to her shameful trade of prostitution.
Not long after she had entered upon this single method of street-walking, she fell into the company of a gentleman who was more than ordinary amorous of her, and who after treating her with a supper, lay with her, and (as she said) gave her four guineas; but he on the contrary charged her with picking his pocket of a shagreen book, a silk handkerchief, and the money before mentioned. For this fact she was committed to Newgate, and soon after tried and convicted, notwithstanding her excuse of the man bestowing it on her as a present.
After she had received sentence, some of her friends gave her hopes of having it changed into a transportation pardon, but this she rejected utterly, declaring that she had rather die not only the most ignominious, but the most cruel death that could be invented at home, rather than be sent abroad to slave for her living. Such strange apprehensions enter into the head of these unhappy creatures, and hinder them from taking the advantage of the only possibility they have left of tasting happiness on this side of the grave; and as this aversion to the plantations has so bad effects, especially in making the convicts desirous of escaping from the vessel, or of flying out of the country whither they were sent, almost before they have seen it, I am surprised that no care has been taken to print a particular and authentic account of the manner in which they are treated in those places. I know it may be suggested that the terror of such usage as they are represented to meet with there has often a good effect in diverting them from such acts as they know must bring them to transportation; yet though I confess I have heard this more than once repeated, yet I am far from being convinced, and I am thoroughly satisfied that instead of magnifying the miseries of their pretended slavery, or rather of inventing stories that make a very easy service pass on these unhappy creatures for the severest bondage, the convicts should be told the true state of the case, and be put in mind that instead of suffering death, the lenity of our Constitution permitted them to be removed into another climate no way inferior to that in which they were born, where they were to perform no harder tasks than those who work honestly for their bread in England do. And this, not under persons of another nation, who might treat them with less humanity, but with those who are no less English for their living in the New, than if they dwelt in Old England, people famous for their humanity, justice, and, piety, and amongst whom they are sure of meeting with no variation of manners, customs, etc., unless in respect of the progress of their vices which are at present more numerous there than in their motherland. I say if pains were taken to instil into these unhappy persons such notions, at the same time demonstrating to them that from being exposed either to want and necessity from the loss they had sustained of this reputation, and being thereby under a kind of force in following their old courses, and as soon as discharged from the fears of death (supposing a free pardon could be procured) obliged to run a like hazard immediately after, they might probably conceive justly of that clemency which is extended towards them, and instead of shunning transportation, flying from the country where they are landed as soon as they have set their foot in them, or neglecting opportunities they might have on their first coming there, and be brought to serve their masters faithfully, to endure the time of their service cheerfully, and settle afterwards in the best manner they are able, so as to pass the close of their life in an honest, easy and reputable manner. Now it too often happens that their last end is worse than their first, because those who return from transportation being sure of death if apprehended, are led thereby to behave themselves worse and more cruelly than any malefactors, whatsoever.
But to return to Mary Standford, who led us into this digression. She showed little or no regard for anything; no, not even for her own child, who, she said, she hoped would be well taken care of by the parish, and added that she had been a great sinner, for which she hoped God would forgive her, praying as well as she could, both while under sentence and at the place of execution. She declared that she bore no malice either against her prosecutor, or any other person, and in this disposition she finished her life at Tyburn, the same day with the afore-mentioned malefactors, being at that time near thirty-six years of age.
 A New Hampshire law regulating the behaviour of masters towards their white servants enacts, "if any man smite out the eye or tooth of his manservant or maid-servant or otherwise maim or disfigure them much, unless it be mere casualty, he shall let him or her go free from his service and shall allow such further recompense as the Court of Quarter Sessions shall adjudge them." A good example of New England humanity and justice.
The Life of JOHN CARTWRIGHT, a Thief
This unhappy young man was born in Yorkshire, of a tolerable family, who had been sufficiently careful in having him instructed in whatever was necessary for a person of his condition, breeding him up to all works of husbandry in general, and also qualifying him in every respect for a gentleman's service; in one of which capacities they were in hopes he would not find it difficult to get his bread. He lived with several persons in the country with unspotted reputation, until at last a whim came into his head of coming up to London. An uncle of his procured him a very good service with one Mr. Charvin, a mercer in Paternoster Row, with whom he Stayed for some time with great satisfaction on both sides; for his master was highly pleased with the careful industry of the young man's temper, and Cartwright on the other side had not the least reason to complain, considering the great kindness and indulgence with which he was used. But some young fellows of loose principles taking notice of Cartwright's easy and tractable temper, quickly drew him into becoming fond of their company and conversation.
Every other Sunday he was permitted to go out where he would, until nine o'clock at night, and these young fellows meeting at a fine alehouse not far from his master's house, whither they began to bring Yorkshire John (as they called him), there they usually ran over the description of the diversions of the town, and of those places round it which are most remarkable for the resort of company. These were new scenes to poor John, who was unacquainted with any representation better than a puppet show, or recreation of a superior nature to bullbaitings at a country fair; and therefore his thoughts were extremely taken up with all he heard, and his companions were so obliging that they took abundance of pains to satisfy such questions as he asked them, and were often soliciting him to go and partake with them at plays, dancing-bouts, and all the various divertisements to which young unthinking youths are addicted. He wanted not many intreaties to comply with their request, but money, the main ingredient in such delights, was wanting, and of this he at last acknowledged the deficiency to one of the young men his companions. This fellow took no notice of it at that time, farther than to wish he had more, and to tell him that a young man of his spirit ought never to be without and that there were ways and means enough to get it, if a man had not as much cash as courage.
He repeated these insinuations often, without explaining them at all, until frequent stories of the fine sights at the theatres and elsewhere had so far raised poor John's curiosity that one evening he entreated his companion to let him into the bottom of what he meant. The cunning villain turned it at first into a jest and continued to banter him about his being a country put, and so forth, until he perceived it was past twelve o'clock, and knew that it was too late for him to get in at home; then he told him that if he promised never to reveal it, he would tell him what he meant. John being full of liquor swore he would not, and the other replied, Why, here you stand complaining of the want of money, while I warrant you, there's a hundred or two pounds in your master's drawer under the counter. Maybe there may, said Cartwright, but what's that to me? Nay, replied the other, nothing, if you have not the courage to go and fetch it; why now, you can get in I'm sure. Come, I'll put you in a way of never being taken.
Cartwright, who was half drunk, remembered that there was a parcel of gold in the drawer, and that it was in his power to get at a silver watch and some plate, so that he fatally yielded to the temptations of his companion, and thereupon the next morning, conveyed to him the watch, fourscore pounds in money, and three silver spoons. They shared the greatest part of the booty, of which Cartwright was quickly cheated, and though he fled with the remainder as far as Monmouthshire, in Wales, yet some way or other he was there detected, committed prisoner to the county gaol and then sent up to London, where a few days after his arrival he was tried and convicted.
Never poor wretch suffered deeper affliction than he did, in the reflection of his follies, for giving up all hopes of life, he spent the whole interval of time between sentence and execution in grieving for the sorrows he had brought upon himself and the stain his ignominious death would leave upon his family. His companion, in the meantime, was fled far enough out of the reach of Justice, so that Cartwright had nothing to expect but death to which he patiently submitted, acknowledging upon all occasions the justice of that sentence which had befallen him, and wishing that his death might be sufficient to warn other young men in such circumstances, as his once were, from falling into faults of that kind, which had brought him to ruin and shame. Yet though he laid aside all desires relating to worldly things, he yet expressed a little peevishness from the neglect shown towards him by his friends in the country, who though they knew well enough of his misfortunes, yet they absolutely declined doing anything for him, from a notion perhaps that it might reflect upon themselves. Above all things Cartwright manifested a due sense of the ingratitude he had been guilty of towards so good a master as the gentleman whom he robbed had been to him, he therefore prayed for his prosperity, even with his last breath, and declared he died without malice or ill-will against any person whatsoever.
At the place of his execution he attended very devoutly to the prayers, but did not say anything to the people more than to beg of them to take warning by him, after the rope was fixed about his neck. He was executed at Tyburn, on Monday, the 21st of September, 1726, being then about twenty-three years of age, a remarkable instance of how far youth, even of the best principles, is liable to be corrupted, if they are not carefully watched over and may justify those restraints which parents and masters, from a just apprehension of things, put upon their children or servants.
The Life of FRANCES, alias MARY BLACKET, a Highwaywoman
Nothing deserves observation more than the resolution, or rather obstinacy, with which some criminals deny the facts they have committed, though ever so evidently proved against them. There are two evils which follow from a hasty judgment formed from this consideration; the first is, that people either instigated through malice, or rashly and by mistake, swear against innocent persons from a presumption that nobody would be so wicked as to die with a lie in their mouths; the other fault consists in imagining that the prosecutor is never in the wrong, but believing that covetousness or revenge can never bring people to such a pitch as to take away the life of another to gain money, or glut their passions. Our experience convinces us that either of these notions taken generally is wrong in itself, and that even as many have died in the profession of falsehoods, so some have suffered though innocent of the crime for which they died. The true use, therefore, of this reflection is that where life is concerned, too much care cannot be taken to sift the truth, since appearances often deceive us and circumstances are sometimes strong where the evidence, if the whole affair were known, would be but weak.
Mary Blacket, which was the real name of this unfortunate woman, was the daughter of very mean parents, who yet were so careful of her education that they brought her up to read and write tolerably well, and to do everything which could be expected from a household servant, which was the best station they ever expected she would arrive at. When she grew big enough to go out, they procured for her a service in which as well as in several others, while a single woman, she lived with very good reputation. After this she married a sailor, and for all her neighbours knew, lived by hard working while he was abroad. Then on a sudden she was taken up and committed to Newgate, for assaulting William Whittle, in the highway, and taking from him a watch value L4, and sixpence in money, on the 6th of August, 1726.
When sessions came on, the prosecutor appeared and swore the fact positively upon her, whereupon the jury found her guilty, though at the bar she declared with abundance of asseverations that she never was guilty of anything of that sort in her life, and insisted on it that the man was mistaken in her face. While under sentence of death, she behaved herself with great devotion, and seemed to express no concern at leaving the world, excepting her only apprehensions that her child would neither be taken care of nor educated so well after her decease, at the charge of the parish, as hitherto it had been. Yet with respect to the crime for which she was to die, she still continued to profess her innocency thereof, averring that she had never been concerned in injuring anybody by theft, and charging the oath of the prosecutor wholly upon his mistake, and not upon wilful design to do her prejudice. At chapel, as well as in the place of her confinement, she declared she absolutely forgave him who had brought her to that ignominious end, as freely as she hoped forgiveness from her Creator; and with these professions she left the world at Tyburn, on the same day with the before-mentioned malefactor, being then about thirty-four years of age, persisting even at the place of execution in the denial of the fact.
The Life of JANE HOLMES, alias BARRET, alias FRAZER, a Shoplifter
In the summer of the year 1726, shoplifting became so common a practice, and so detrimental to the shopkeepers, that they made an application to the Government for assistance in apprehending the offenders; and in order thereto, offered a reward and a pardon for any who would discover their associates in such practices. It was not long before by their vigilance and warmth in carrying on the prosecution, they seized and committed several of the most notorious shoplifters about town, and at the next several ensuing sessions convicted six or seven of them, which seems to have pretty well broke the neck of this branch of thieving ever since.
The malefactor of whom we are now speaking pretended to have been the daughter of a gentleman of some rank in a northern county. Certain it is that the woman had had a tolerable education, and neither in her person, nor in her behaviour betrayed anything of vulgar birth. Yet those whom she called her nearest relations absolutely disowned her on her application to them, and would not be prevailed on to take any steps whatsoever in order to procure her a reprieve.
When between fifteen and sixteen years old, she came up to London to her aunt, as she asserted, much against the will of her relations. At that time she was not ugly, and therefore a young man in the neighbourhood began to be very assiduous in his courtship to her, hoping also that the persons she talked of, as her father and brothers in the country, would give him a sum of money to set up his trade. Miss Jenny was a forward lass, and the fellow being a spruce young spark, soon prevailed over her affections, and they were accordingly privately married, though it proved not much to her advantage. For her husband finding no money come, began to use her indifferently, upon which she fell into that sort of business which goes under the name of a Holland's Trader, and gave the best opportunities of vending goods that are ill come by, at a tolerable price, and with little danger.
Whether in the life-time of this husband or afterwards, I cannot say, but she fell into the acquaintance of the famous Jonathan Wild, and possibly received some of his instructions in managing her affairs in the disposal of stolen goods; but as Jonathan's friendships were mostly fatal, so in about a year's time afterwards she was apprehended upon that score, and shortly after was tried and convicted, and thereupon ordered for transportation. She continued abroad for two years or somewhat more; and then, under pretence of love to her children, ventured over to England again, where it was not long before she got acquainted with her old crew, who, if they were to be believed upon their oaths, were inferior to her in the art or mystery of shoplifting. However it were, whether by selling stolen goods, or by stealing them, certain it is that she ran into so much money that an Irish sharper thought fit, about Christmas before her death, to marry her in order to possess himself of her effects; which without ceremony he did upon her being last apprehended, disposing of every thing she had, and taking away particularly a large purse of old gold, which by her industry she had collected against a rainy day.
The woman who became an evidence against her swore so positively on the several indictments, and what she said was corroborated with so many circumstances, that the jury found her guilty on the four following indictments, viz.: for stealing 20 yards of straw-ground brocaded silk, value L10, the goods of John Moon and Richard Stone, on the 1st of June, 1726; of stealing, in the shop of Mr. Mathew Herbert, 40 yards of pink-coloured mantua silk, value L10, on the 1st of May, in the same year; of stealing, in company with Mary Robinson, a silver cup of the value of L5, the goods of Elizabeth Dobbinson, on the 7th January; of stealing, in the company of Mary Robinson aforesaid, 80 yards of cherry-coloured mantua silk value L5, the goods of Joseph Bourn and Mary Harper, on the 24th December.
Notwithstanding the clearness of the evidence given against her, while under sentence of death she absolutely denied not only the several facts of which she was convicted, but of her having been ever guilty of any theft during the whole life. Yet she confessed her acquaintance with Jonathan Wild, nay, she went so far as to own having bought stolen goods, and disposing of them, by which she had got great sums of money. She was exceedingly uneasy at the thoughts of dying, and left no method untried to procure a reprieve, venting herself in most opprobrious terms against some whom she would have put upon procuring it for her, by pretending to be their near relation, though the people knew very well that she had nothing to do with them or their family; and she herself had been reproved for nuking such pretensions by the ministers who assist condemned persons; yet she still persisted therein, and on the Ordinary of Newgate's acquainting her that the gentleman she called her father died the week before, suddenly, she fell into a great agony of crying, and as soon as she came a little to herself, reproached, though in very modest terms, the unnatural conduct of those she still averred to be so nearly related to her.
Nothing could be more fond than she was of her children, who were brought to Newgate to see her, and over whom she wept bitterly, and expressed great concern at her not having saved wherewith to support them in their tender years. At last, when she lost all hopes of life, instead of growing calmer and better reconciled to death, as is frequent enough with persons in that sad condition, on the contrary, she became more impatient than ever, flew out into excessive passions and behaved herself with such vehemency and flights of railing, that she did not a little disturb those who lay under sentence in the same place with her. For this she was reprimanded by the keepers, and exhorted to alter her behaviour by the minister of the place, which had at last so good an effect upon her that she became more quiet for the two or three last days of her life; in which she professed herself exceedingly grieved for the many offences of her misspent life, declaring she heartily forgave the woman who was an evidence against her, and who she believed was much wickeder than herself, because as this criminal pretended, she had varied not a little from the truth. At the place of execution she was more composed than could have been expected, and with many prayers that her life might prove a warning to others, she yielded up her last breath, at Tyburn, on the same day with the before-mentioned malefactors, being then about thirty-four years of age.
The Life of KATHERINE FITZPATRICK, alias GREEN, alias BOSWELL, a notorious Shoplift
After once the mercers had got Burton, who was the evidence, into their hands, she quickly detected numbers of her confederates, several of whom were apprehended, and chiefly on her evidence, convicted. Amongst the rest was this Katherine Fitzpatrick, who was born in Lincolnshire, of parents far from being in low circumstances, and who were careful in bestowing on her a very tolerable education. In the country she discovered a little too much forwardness, and though London was a very improper place in which to hope for her amendment, yet hither her friends sent her, where she quickly fell into such company as deprived her of all sentiments, either of virtue or honesty. What practices she might pursue before she fell into shoplifting I have not been able to learn, and will not therefore impose upon my readers at the expense of a poor creature, who is so long ago gone to answer for her offences, which, as they were doubtless many of themselves, so they shall never be increased by me.
Being a woman of a tolerable person, notwithstanding her not having the best of characters, she got a man in the mind to marry her, to whom she made an indifferent good wife; and though he was not altogether clear from knowing of her being concerned with shoplifters, yet he was so far from giving her the least encouragement therein that they were on the contrary continually quarrelling upon this subject; and whenever, from any circumstances, he guessed she had been thieving, he beat her severely. Yet all this was to no purpose, she still continued to treat in the old path and associated herself with a large number of women, who were at this time busy in stealing silks out of the shops, either in the absence of the master, or under the pretence of seeing others. It is observable not only of Katherine Fitzpatrick, of whom we are now speaking, but also of all the persons who died for this offence, that they were extremely shy of making detailed confessions, though ready enough to confess in general that they had been grievous sinners, and that the punishment they were to undergo was very just from the hand of God. Fitzpatrick, as well as the former criminal Holmes, charged Burton the evidence with disingenuity in what she delivered on her oath against them, and yet Fitzpatrick could not absolutely deny having been guilty of a multitude of offences as to shoplifting, so that it is highly probable, even if the evidence erred a little in immaterial circumstances, that in the main she swore truth.
The particular facts on which Fitzpatrick was convicted, were: (1) stealing 19 yards of green damask valued at L9, the goods of Joseph Giffard and John Ravenal, on July the 29th, 1724; (2) Taking 10 yards of green satin out of the shop of John Moon and Richard Stone, value L3, on the 10th February, 1724/25; (3) Stealing, in company with another person, 50 yards of green mantua, value L10, the goods of John Autt, May the 5th, 1725; (4) Stealing 63 yards of modena and pink italian mantua, the goods of Joshua Fairy, February 24, 1724/25. These dates were all of them somewhat more than a twelvemonth before the time of her apprehension, and she insisted on it that she had left off committing any such thing for a considerable space, which made the evidence envy her, and so brought on the prosecution.
As she was a woman of good natural parts, and had not utterly lost that education which had been bestowed upon her, she was not near so much confuted at the apprehensions of death as people in her circumstances usually are. She said she was glad she had some reformation in her life before this great evil came upon her, because she hoped her repentance was the more sincere as it had not proceeded from force; yet she was very desirous of life when first condemned, and, like Mrs. Holmes, pleaded her belly, in hopes her pregnancy might have prevented her execution. But a jury of matrons found neither of them to be quick with child; yet both to the time of their death averred they were so, and seemed exceedingly uneasy that their children should die violent deaths within them.
When the time of her execution drew very near, she called her thoughts totally off from worldly affairs, and seemed to apply herself to the great business which lay before her, with an earnestness and assiduity seldom to be seen in such people. The assistance she had from her friends abroad were not large, but she contented herself with a very spare diet, being unwilling that anything should call her off from penitence and religious duties. She seemed to have entirely weaned her affections from the desire of life, and never showed any extraordinary emotions, except on the visit of her youngest child, in the nurse's arms, at the first sight of which she fell into strong convulsion fits, from which she was not brought to herself without great difficulty. She sometimes expressed a little uneasiness at the misfortunes which had befallen her after she had left off that way of living, but upon her being spoken to by several reverend persons, who explained and vindicated the wisdom and justice of Providence, she acquiesced under its decrees, and without murmuring submitted to her fate.
A little before she died, she, with the rest of the shoplifters, was asked some questions concerning one Mrs. Susanna, who was suspected of having been in some degree concerned with her. Mrs. Fitzpatrick and Mrs. Holmes each of them declared that they knew nothing evil about her. Mrs. Fitzpatrick did indeed say that she had some little acquaintance with the woman, and knew that she got her living by selling coffee, tea, and some other little things, yet never was concerned in any ill practices in relation to them, or anybody else she knew of. After having done this public justice, she, with great meekness, yielded up her breath at Tyburn, the 6th of September, 1726, being then about thirty-eight years of age.
The Life of MARY ROBINSON, a Shoplift
The indiscretions of youth are always pitied, and often excused even by those who suffer most by them; but when persons grown up to years of discretion continue to pursue with eagerness the most flagitious courses, and grow in wickedness as they grow in age, pity naturally forsakes us, and they appear in so execrable a light that instead of having compassion for their misfortunes we congratulate our country on being rid of such monsters, whom nothing could tame, nor the approach even of death in a natural way hinder them from anticipating it by drawing on a violent one through their crimes.
I am drawn to this observation from the fate of the miserable woman of whom we are now speaking. What her parents were, or what her education it is impossible to say, since she was shy of relating them herself; and being seventy years old at the time of her execution, there was nobody then living who could give an account about her. She was indicted for stealing a silver cup, in company with Jane Holmes, and also stealing eighty yards of cherry-coloured mantua silk, value five pounds, in company with the aforesaid Jane Holmes, the property of Joseph Brown and Mary Harper, on the 24th of December. On these facts she was convicted as the rest were, in the evidence of Burton, whom, as is usual in such cases, they represented as a woman worse than themselves, and who had drawn many of them into the commission of what she now deposed against them.
As to this old woman Mary Robinson, she said she had been a widow fourteen years, and had both children and grandchildren living at the time of her execution; she said she had worked as hard for her living as any woman in London. Yet when pressed thereupon to speak the truth and not wrong her conscience in her last moments, she did then declare she had been guilty of thieving tricks; but persisted in it that the evidence Burton had not been exactly right in what she had sworn against her. It was a melancholy thing to see a woman of her years, and who really wanted not capacity, brought into those lamentable circumstances, and going to a violent and ignominious death, when at a time when she could not expect it would be any long term before she submitted to a natural one.
Possibly my readers may wonder how such large quantities of silk were conveyed away. I thought, therefore, proper to inform them that the evidence Burton said they had a contrivance under their petticoats, not unlike two large hooks, upon which they laid a whole roll of silk, and so conveyed it away at once, while one of their confederates amused the people of the shop in some manner or other until they got out of reach; and by this means they had for many years together carried on their trade with great success and as much safety, until the losses of the tradesmen ran so high as to induce them to take the method before-mentioned, which quickly produced a discovery, not only of the persons of the offenders, but of the place also where they had deposited the goods. By this means a good part of them were recovered, and those who had so long lived by this infamous practice were either detected or destroyed; so that shoplifting has been thereby kept under ever since, or at least the offenders have not ventured in so large a way as before.
But to return to the criminal of whom we are to treat. She said she was not afraid of death at all, though she confessed herself troubled as to the manner in which she was to die, and reflected severely upon Burton, who had given evidence against her. By degrees she grew calmer, and on the day of her execution appeared more composed and cheerful than she had done during all her troubles. She suffered at the same time with the malefactors before mentioned, and in her years looked as if she had been the mother of those with whom she died.
The Life of JANE MARTIN, alias LLOYD, a Cheat and a Thief, etc.
This woman was the daughter of parents in very good reputation, about an hundred miles off in the country. While they lived they took care to breed her to understand everything as became a gentlewoman of a small fortune, and in her younger years she was tractable enough; but her parents dying while Jane was but a girl, she came into the hand of guardians who were not altogether so careful as they ought. Before she was of age she married a young gentleman who had a pretty little fortune, which he and she quickly confounded; insomuch that he became a prisoner in the King's Bench for debt. Being thus destitute, and in great want of money, she set her wits to work to consider ways and means of cheating people for her support, in which she became as dexterous as any who ever followed that infamous trade. Yet her husband (as she herself owned) was a man of strict honour, and so much offended at these villainies that he used her with great severity thereupon, but that had no effect, for she still continued the old trade, putting on the saint until people trusted her, and pulling off the mask as soon as she found there was no more to be got by keeping it on.
Amongst the rest of her adventures in this way she once took it in her head that it was possible for her to set up a great shop, entirely upon credit, for except some good clothes she had nothing else to go to market with. Accordingly she first took a shop not far from Somerset House, and having caused some bales of brick-bats to be made up, sent them thither in a cart with one of her confederates, which was safely deposited in that which was to pass for the warehouse. A carpenter was sent for, who was employed in making shelves, drawers, and other utensils for a haberdasher's shop. Then going to the wholesale people in that way, she found means to draw them in to six or seven hundred pounds worth of goods to the house which she had taken. All of this stuff the Saturday night following, she caused to be carried over into the Mint, a practice very common with the infamous shelterers there who preserve their pretended privileges.
Mrs. Martin having got some acquaintance in a tolerable family, and having a very fair tongue, she quickly wheedled them into a belief of her being able to do great matters by her interest with some person of distinction, whose name she made use of on this occasion, and thereby got several presents and small sums of money, and (if she herself were to be believed) among the rest a silver cup. Whether her failing in her promises really provoked the people to swearing a theft upon her, or whether (which is more probable) she took an opportunity of conveying it secretly away, certain it is that for this she was prosecuted, and the fact appearing clear enough to the jury, was thereupon convicted and ordered for transportation. This afflicted her at least as much as if she had been condemned to instant death, and therefore she applied herself continually to thinking which way it might be eluded, and she might escape. Soon after her going abroad, she effected what she so earnestly desired, and unhappily for her returned again into England.
The numerous frauds she had committed had exasperated many people against her, who as soon as it was rumoured that she was come back again, never left searching for her until they found her out, and got her committed to Newgate; and on the record of her conviction being produced the next sessions, and the prosecutor swearing positively that she was the same person, the jury, after a short consultation, brought her in guilty, and she received sentence of death, from which, as she had no friends, she could not hope to escape. When she found death was inevitable, she fell into excessive agonies and well-nigh into despair. The reflection on the many people she had injured gave her so great grief and anxiety of mind that she could scarce be persuaded to get down a sufficient quantity of food to preserve her life until the time of her execution. But the minister at Newgate having demonstrated to her the wickedness and the folly of such a course, she by degrees came to have a better sense of things; her mind grew calmer, and though her repentance was accompanied with sighs and tears, yet she did not burst out into those lamentable outcries by which she before disturbed both herself and those poor creatures who were under sentence with her. In this disposition of mind she continued until the day of her death, which was on the 12th of September, 1726, being between twenty-seven-and-eight years of age, in the company of the before-mentioned malefactors, Cartwright, Blacket, Holmes, Fitzpatrick, Robinson, and William Allison, a poor country lad of about twenty-five, apparently of an easy gentle temper who had been induced into the fact, partly through covetousness, and partly through want.
The Life of TIMOTHY BENSON, a Highwayman
Amongst the number of those unfortunate persons whose memory we have preserved to the world in order that their punishments may become lasting warnings unto all who are in any danger of following their footsteps, none is more capable of affording useful reflections than the incidents that are to be found in the life of this robber are likely to create. He was the son of a serjeant's wife, in the regiment of the Earl of Derby, but who his father was it would be hard to say. His mother having had a long intrigue with one Captain Benson and the serjeant dying soon after this child was born, she thought fit to give him the captain's name, declaring publicly enough, that if it was in her power to distinguish, the captain must be his father. Certain it is that the woman acted cunningly, at least, for Benson, who had never had a child, was so pleased with the boy's ingenuity that he sent him to a grammar school in Yorkshire, where he caused him to be educated as well as if he had been his legitimate son.